What will happen to unique Apps/services if the one and only Developer is not available anymore?

Hello Community,

today I woke up with a fear-thought.

We are using some Apps for our Macs or iPhones, which are only being developed by single developers. However sometimes our “life” can depend on these apps. Now my thought was: What will happen to the App or the service and the development if the one and only developer is not available anymore and passes away? What will happen with the “unique” software – is there kind of a system to still develop the software?

I know its a heavy thought, but we never know what will happen in the next minute to us.

It Would be nice if you could drop in your thoughts. Of course I could ask the devleopers directly this question, but somehow I think its rude. Thank you.

Of course the fact is that your “life” does not depend on it.

If you use any app you should take into consideration what will happen if/when that app dies. It can happen for any number of reasons. Death of the sole developer is a relatively rare cause. Big companies down to solo developers can decide to abandon apps.

What will happen will depend on the app. Does it have competitors? Is your data “locked” into the app? I am careful about using apps that do the latter.

Anyway, I would not focus too hard on the issue. I have had apps die out under me, but I don’t believe that developer death has been a cause even once. If it its a commercially successful app (makes money) then someone will likely take it over.


Software cannot be continued unless you have access to the source code, or somebody goes to extreme lengths to reverse-engineer a service (which is probably not a process anybody should count on).
We should count on good developers will have contingency plans in case of their untimely demise for their apps to live on. In the case of small indie companies, since the codebase is shared among the developers, there is probably no risk of the app being abruptly lost.

Well, it does not need to be that dramatic (developer passing away).

The lifetime of any software product is limited. Businesses are being sold or shut down. Apps are going away because of whatever reason.

My conclusion is: data that is critical to me is sitting locally on my LAN (Synology) with local and off-site backups - at least in the long run. I do not care how nice whatever app is: no proprietary databases, no cloud, no nothing. It is available directly via the file system or it is not for me (again: in the long run that is).

The asterisk is: in the long run. I enjoy proprietary apps with their databases and I use them, but eventually, for archival reasons pictures, documents and other files are sitting in a place I have control of at all times.

I use Apple Photos, but if photos are really nice, they are being exported to my NAS and the real editing is being done in Lightroom (which honors “my” file system so that I could move on to any other app for my photos with not too much hassle).

I am using Ulysses within my Setup subscription, but important Markdown files are exported to my NAS. And to be honest, I have catched myself again and again creating Markdown in BBEdit in combination with Marked 2 - why bothering with Ulysses in the first place when I am sitting in front of my Mac…

Regarding services: every service that has my data has a COPY of my data. They do not have the ONLY copy of my data.

My way might sound a little bit extreme, but that is what has helped me over and over again when apps or services went away…


Your life does not depend on an app. :wink:

If an app disappears, just move on. Even iOS or macOS might disappear. In the last decades, I moved across several operating systems (professional and personal), several software suites and “apps”.

The fact remains that applications maintained by a single developer often tend to disappear and, if not maintained, have a high chance to break with an OS update.


Glad to see some people can still put things into perspective. :+1:


Other than the strange case of the Circus Ponies developer suddenly shutting down his business and walking away, I can think of no developer of any software I depended just disappearing. I’d guess even if someone closes shop, there is a very good chance that apps that are not cloud-based will operate long enough for users to get data out of them. Cloud-based software is a bit more of a hazard, from that perspective.


It happened with AskSam on Windows

Good points above. I’ll only add that many of these sole proprietors do have a “hit by a bus” continuity plan. It can be as simple as an agreement between two developers to be each other’s backup. The software wouldn’t be the same after losing its founder, but you’d have time to wind down operations without too much disruption.

No doubt anyone can find an exception. My points are: abandonware is not common; and, usually we have time to get our data out.

Yes, I assume for anything that had moderate profitability it is likely someone has an interest in maintaining that stream and will take steps to continue it.

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Particularly for smaller companies, it is rare but possible that a hacker can destroy the business so nobody can maintain it


It might have been during preparation for Y2K that I first heard someone say “Hell is other people’s code”.

Meaning it’s not always possible to assume someone else’s project. I’ve personally seen programmers struggle to troubleshoot/modify software that they wrote but haven’t touched for years.

I’m probably much like @Christian. I don’t use software that doesn’t allow me to easily backup and export my data.

Circus Ponies Notebook shutting down still hurts.

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That would be called GitHub, but it’s up to the developer(s) to make their code available there.

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Two things crossed my mind reading the OP.

  1. Google services get canned all the time.
  2. Gmail, ironically, is probably the longest lasting software/service I still use.

Everything else has changed many times over. It kinda has to in the timeframe I’m dealing with. I do wish I could still play Lunar Lander that I used to on a TRS-80 clone (the only game of the time I was any good at).

There has only been one piece of software I truly had a hard time letting go. The developer of Übercaster was at a point where they needed to do a significant rewrite, and then got very ill. I absolutely cannot fault their decision to throw in the towel, and they did attempt to sell it as a going concern, but there was, and continues to be, nothing like it.

If you are around long enough, you see this happening many times. I’ve had developers die and developers retire, and big and small companies abandon their products which gives the same result.

The solo developer of games I’ve played for nearly 3 decades retired but luckily came out of retirement to update the games so they would work on Big Sir and Apple Silicon. https://www.kaser.com

I used a set of programs with a textbook I wrote, and the author died in 2008. People still use the programs which thankfully continue to run just fine.

My favorite programmers editor is Epsilon, which comes from a solo developer and I’ve used it for over 30 years. He isn’t retired yet, but I don’t know how old he is. https://www.lugaru.com

Of course, Circus Ponies Notebook has already been mentioned in this thread.

But big companies are no better.

I wrote about my experiences on my website Discontinued Software